Monday, February 4, 2013

How to talk about dieting in the office

The cubicle life is sedentary, and it can be unhealthy. I know this all too well – since finishing grad school and entering the work force six years ago, and with irregular and unsustained bursts of activity, I've gained a good 25 pounds.

As I struggle to get back in shape, I've talked about my efforts with my coworkers. We spend 40 hours a week together and yes, we talk about things other than work. Sometimes (much of the time?) it falls into a common trap – bashing our own bodies. This is generally a social activity, but can seep into the workplace easily. Haven't seen it? You've probably missed it.

"You look great, but I'd never be able to wear that."

"I remember when I was young and my metabolism was quick."

"I need to go work out."

I'm sure you've heard similar things in your workplaces, and And it goes on and on. From normal, healthy, beautiful women.

Don't get me wrong - sometimes the comments above are actually true. Not every style works for every shape, metabolism does slow down, and working out is a good thing. But saying, and hearing, those types of comments can be hurtful, to both ourselves and others. At the very least, they can be annoying.

It's a hard habit to break, but there are two things we can do.

Stop tearing ourselves down. 
If you're giving a compliment, let it stand on its own merit; don't feel like you need to bring yourself down in the process.

Work together.
Offer a solution, like walking together during lunch or splitting meals when eating out. Or start an informal office challenge among coworkers with similar goals – see who can stick to their plan the best and celebrate milestones together.

So what do you say...who's with me in trying to change the dialogue on diets?


  1. At my husband's work place they get together once or twice a year and have an "office dieting competition". They all weigh themselves and by the end of the month whoever lost the most pounds gets some $ ( the $ comes from all those who participate, who each pitch in ten bucks). They help each other in bringing in healthy treats and even exercising together... my husband won last time: he lost 10 pounds.

    1. That's awesome! It's always great to get everyone involved and incentive helps, too!

  2. I hate listening to people bash their bodies. At one of my old jobs, they offered fitness classes during lunch and Weight Watchers meetings. It was nice to be in an environment where people were encouraging each other to stay healthy.

    1. Love it! At my first job out of grad school, we had an employee gym and a part-time wellness consultant that could customize a plan for definitely had a good feel! It's always hard for me because I always want to eat unhealthy food...but I guess I just gotta find a balance.

    2. One of my former workplaces did that, it resulted in one girl eating one yoghurt a day.
      IMHO I think dieting competitions aren't a good idea. You don't change anything about the way you treat your body and then twice a year you try really hard to lose weight. That can't possibly be healthy.
      In our office we have a group of people who go for a walk every break, another group goes to the gym on lunch. It's all open to everybody, no pressure, no rewards (except for improving health, and maybe you meet someone from a different department). I think a moderate approach is much better.

    3. That comment was supposed to go under Lorena's post - curses!

    4. I don't think a 2 week thing at work or even 4 week weight loss thing is good but say it goes on and on but has intermediate points. Also at my dads work they do this walk at lunch thing. You can walk before or after work too. Every month you enter your miles and at the end of each month there is a drawing so you get $25 gift card if you win or nothing but at the end of summer if you have 100 miles you get something. I'm not sure what it is. I interned there and had 90 miles If only we didn't have so many intern functions or I might have gotten whatever the prize was. The 100 miles had to be done by October. I think the walk at lunch thing went April to October and I was there mid may to mid August. I thought it was a great idea. Westinghouse had a walking contest but only for 6 weeks. It was based on number of steps. If you have one competition and then go immediately to another I think that is good. I got the most ripped trying to do competitions even though there was no real prize. I just liked getting points for certain things. Then our work switched gym companies and no more contests and I got fatter.

    5. I wouldn't write off weight loss "challenges" completely, but I do see how they could go wrong. It really depends on how it is publicized and the types of support offered. A health-based initiative (including fitness, education and nutrition) isn't a bad thing -- many people will not seek that information out otherwise or apply it, but the group may motivate them. People love to win, and sometimes that's the best way to motivate. But there are good ways and bad ways to set up these challenges or competitions.

      At the old job I had with a gym, we had monthly fitness challenges, with weigh-ins optional. The goal there wasn't to lose weight, but to teach people about certain muscles and the best way to work out for their own body (not one-exercise-for-all). The benchmark was always personal improvement - like comparing the number of sit-ups you could do at the end of the month compared to the beginning. Over the course of a year or so, if you always participated, you would end up pretty fit in a healthy way.

  3. I Like the graphic.

    I'm used to comments at work that are some sort of negative comments about me being thin and those are as hurtful as fat comments.

    1. What kind of thin comments do they make? Just curious (if you're willing to share). I think it's good for us to educate ourselves about what we think are harmless comments that might not be so harmless.

    2. Comments about needing to eat a cheeseburger or 2. When I made a comment about missing a workout once someone commented about how he's more concerned I'm missing meals. At the time about the missing meal comments I was actually trying to increase my calorie intake to put on some lbs because I was getting thinner when I increased my workouts to train for my first half marathon. People make backhanded comments about how they wish their metabolism was as good as mine but they aren't working out for 6 hours a week either but they comment about being lucky or magic about having a great metabolism. It's been awhile since I worked so I'll probably think of more comments later.

    3. Oh I feel you on this one.
      The comments I receive aren't quite as mean but I got pulled aside and told I needed to stop losing weight... and I wear a size 10.

    4. Wow...those sound like very hurtful experiences. I agree, Colleen, that these people aren't aware of your workouts and calorie intake -- who are they to talk?

      Fiedlerin - wow, at work? why would anyone think it's their place to say ANYTHING about your body at work?

  4. great topic to create a good feel in office. at Saturday.

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